Supply Chain Insights Kicks off its Imagine Conference – What to Look For

Supply Chain Insights is kicking off its two-day “Imagine” supply chain conference today. The firm is run by Lora Cecere, an ex-supply chain practitioner, author, blogger, entrepreneur and research/industry analyst from AMR Research, who is likely the deepest CPG industry supply chain expert you will ever meet. And since CPG is probably the most difficult industry to orchestrate (i.e., being caught between the retailer “rock” and the commodity price volatility “hard place”), and since this bellwether industry is therefore one of the most progressive, she is a great source to tap for knowledge. I only overlapped with Lora for a short while at AMR, but we’ve kept in touch and I’ve really been impressed with what she’s been able to build at Supply Insights, and we certainly are kindred spirits with regards to our views of traditional industry research, benchmarking, media, solution providers, objectivity and so on. I couldn’t make the event, but Lora was kind enough to host our fearless principal analyst Thomas Kase who will be reporting on the conference.

Still, I did attend a preview webcast of the event that featured supply chain practitioners from J&J, General Mills and IBM. Lora and the group share some, well, supply chain insights that I found interesting:

  • The practitioners were most interested in the topic of analytics (no surprise on that from the IBM perspective!)
  • Lora will be releasing her “Top 15 Supply Chains to Admire.” She’s written frequently about her issues with “Gartner’s Top 25 Supply Chains” and with related supply chain benchmarks (check out her site for this), so I’ll be curious how she’ll move the ball forward with her list and her methodology (e.g., will it incorporate some level of her supply chain index).
  • Sixty-nine percent of respondents in a recent supply chain survey that she led were “immature” or “maturing” with regards to adopting sales and operations planning (S&OP). This is a problem. It’s hard to do advanced supply planning scenarios (like I’ve written about in our previous research here) when you don’t have the basics from an integrated supply chain standpoint!
  • The integrated cross-functional (and cross-enterprise!) process of improving supply management (i.e., the management and improvement of the mega process called “supply”) is what we also wrote about here and here. This integrated process was called out in the webcast with regards to supply chain CoEs (Centers of Excellence). This was fascinating because the use of supply chain CoEs, not just procurement CoEs, is something we’ve written about. IBM mentioned their “three in a box” approach of aligning the SCM CoE to the business owner and an analytics lead. On the supply side, these analytics are quite broad, as I’ve written about here.
  • I loved a “Hotel California” quote about supply chain data warehouses. The data checks in, but it can never leave! The same applies to spend analysis.
  • Demand-side has volatility becoming unprecedented, due in great deal to the increasing number of demand channels (e.g., “omni channel” in retail). We’ll be looking to see how supply plugs into that and also how multi-channel exists on the inbound supply side (e.g., category management is just one coarse-grained view of this). General Mills mentioned rightly that supply volatility here must not be ignored, especially due to the weather volatility that has been wreaking havoc on the CPG food supply chain, and on purchase price risk volatility (see here and here for a good case study on the topic).
  • J&J mentioned its success in using supply network modeling tools to quickly see and balance cost/service/cash trade-offs rather than just doing traditional supply network design analyses. J&J told a story of a young analyst who used a visualization to model 5,000 products with 30 characteristics in five hours rather than five days. We’ve covered supply chain visualization before, and we will be watching for developments here that reach into the extended supply network.

Stay tuned for more coverage of this event.

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